Undergraduate students are no longer required to take the Examination in Writing Proficiency (EWP). The 90-minute essay was a requirement for students to graduate from Cal State Fullerton.
Faculty members assessed the exam for writing proficiency and had a pass/fail grading system. The change was made effective May 25.
Edgar P. Trotter, acting associate vice president of undergraduate programs, said the Academic Standards Committee recommended the change to the Academic Senate.
“With only one abstention, the Academic Senate voted to recommend to the president that the EWP be discontinued,” Trotter said.
Trotter said the recommendation of the English Department faculty, the University Writing Board and himself was that the EWP did not serve its intended purpose.
“Most of the students who failed the examination were students whose first language was other than English,” Trotter said. “We already had that information and chose to explore alternative methods of assuring our students receive appropriate instruction in writing skills.”
Katherine Powers, director of the office of graduate studies, said 20 of the 49 graduate programs offered at CSUF require the EWP for graduate students. Graduate programs that require the EWP include chemistry, history, and psychology.
Powers said the requirement, under Title 5 in the California Code of Education, for graduate students to demonstrate writing proficiency at the baccalaureate level is still in effect.
Changes to University Policy Statement (UPS) 320.020 includes options that the programs will choose for their graduate students to meet the Title 5 requirement, added Powers. The EWP option was eliminated from the statement.
“This change will require response from the 20 graduate programs that currently use EWP as a method for their students to demonstrate writing proficiency,” Powers said.
The EWP will still be offered for the 20 graduate programs during this transition period, but in the coming months, will need to propose another method to meet the Title 5 requirement, Powers said.
The CSU system adopted the Graduate Writing Assessment Requirement (GWAR) more than 30 years ago. Trotter said GWAR could be accomplished by an upper division course (or courses) in the major that emphasized writing, an examination in writing proficiency or an implementation of both a course and an exam.
“We were one of only three campuses as of the spring that require both,” Trotter said. “We now conform to the practice of most CSU campuses.”
Students who had signed up to take the EWP after it was cancelled were refunded the $20 charge in July.
Reina Galvez, 21, a math major, said it is great that the EWP was canceled for undergraduate students because the exam is unnecessary.
“When you come into Cal State Fullerton, you’re required to take English courses which require you to write at a higher level,” Galvez said.
She added that the EWP seemed to be redundant of what students have been taught in school. Procrastination saved Galvez the $20 fee students have to pay in order to take the exam.
Another test should not be put in its place because some students have test anxiety, Galvez said. Instead, she said the required English courses should be re-evaluated.
“I was really disappointed in the English courses that I was required to take here,” she said. “I was only required to take one English course, being a math major, and even that class alone was remedial.”
Students have taken the EWP for about 30 or more years, Trotter said, and that dropping the examination has been discussed since its inception.
“When we finally examined our data carefully, we determined that we were not accomplishing our goal of improving student writing,” Trotter said. “We were successful, however, in identifying students with English as a second language.”
There was no issue with the difficulty of the essay questions, the distributors of the exam or the professors who examined the completed essays, Trotter said. He added that there are no other examinations under consideration to assess students on their writing skills.